December 15, 2012 8:38:42 PM
The county school board continues to explore the possibility of building a vocational-technical school for the Lowndes County School District.
Joey Henderson, of JBHM Architects, updated the board Friday on his research into the interest level for such a facility, along with possible locations and ways it might be funded.
It would require nearly 80,000 square feet to offer a 14-course program and 66,500 square feet if the currently offered programs were doubled. Henderson said several potential sites have been identified in an attempt to make the mileage and travel time nearly equal for students at Caledonia, New Hope and West Lowndes high schools.
The most favorable sites are near the intersections of Military Road and Highway 82 and near Lehmberg Road and Highway 50. The former site has at least three available properties which meet the project's needs, whereas the latter has at least nine possibilities.
Henderson suggested board members reverse bid, listing their criteria and waiting for eligible sellers to contact them. The site will require a minimum of between eight and 10 acres and needs to be central to the three high schools.
He identified three possible funding options, saying many districts choose to fund projects with a combination of sources.
A 20-year bond issue would generate around $50 million, but it requires a 60 percent majority referendum.
If the board chooses a 15-year, three-mill note, they would receive around $9 million.
The last option, a lease-purchase, would have to be paid for with existing funds, requiring around $85,000 per $1 million borrowed.
The next steps will include setting priorities and determining funding sources, pursuing land options and continuing to study additional program costs like teachers, equipment and curriculums.
Surveys by JBHM have indicated students at the three high schools are most interested in studying agriscience, allied health and automotive collision repair. Henderson said research indicates there will be a high demand for welders, too.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.
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